"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Saturday, February 28, 2009

My name Is Earl: Nature's Game Show

This episode of My Name Is Earl began with an uncharacteristic scene in which an angry Randy grabbed Earl's list and demanded that they do what he wanted to do for a change. Randy didn't know what he wanted to do exactly, but that was beside the point. As it turned out, other characters were also feeling stressed out as well. Joy was in a fight with Darnell about street smarts vs. book smarts and Catalina was sick and tired of being walked on, both literally and (because of her stripper job) figuratively. From there, the day just got worse as tornadoes struck down and played havoc with the citizens of Camden.

The title refers to the game of "Finders Keepers" the townsfolk play after getting hit by a twister. The rules of "Nature's Game Show" state that any debris found on the ground is fair game, which led to Joy finding a Bible, Randy finding a rowboat and Catalina finding a gun. As the episode went on, a new tornado would blow these items to another character, round-robin style, so Randy, Joy and Catalina all had the Bible, gun and motorboat for a short time to use how they wanted.

As the sole voice of reason in the town, Darnell explained early on that people tend to attribute deeper meanings to random events during times of crisis. That's the question Earl struggled with in this episode as he wondered why he lost his karma list in the tornado. Was karma trying to teach him a lesson about how it feels to lose something, or was it simply a case of him holding a flimsy piece of paper in a windstorm? When Randy, Joy and Catalina all find the same Holy Bible, they think it's a sign from God, but was that really true?

On the plus side, this episode was intricately plotted, considering the number of important characters involved and all of the overlapping events that occurred. Each set of characters used the Bible, the motorboat and the gun a bit differently, to change the course of events during their day. The most important outcome from this episode was that Randy felt like he also wanted to help people, just like his older brother. So Earl and Randy agreed to take turns. One day, they'll choose something from Earl's list. And if Randy felt he had a mission, they'd tackle it the next day. Sure, it seems like they're doing the exact same thing, but don't tell them that.

However, intricate plot or not, this episode needed more jokes. My Name Is Earl has turned into a flat series of awkward, crazy or silly events that might seem humorous on paper, but in the end, aren't really that funny. Aside from an enjoyable MacGyver parody complete with appropriate instrumental music and a freeze-frame, I found myself watching this episode in silence rather than laughing at it. And that's been the case for some time. Unfortunately, I don't think that's what the producers had in mind.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Pam's New Music Downloads

If you're still holding out for another "Fast Car," you won't find it on Tracy Chapman's new CD, One Bright Future. but there remains an enduring appeal to her sweet twang and honest introspection. "Thinking of You," is a gentle heart breaker.

Heidi Klum's hubby, Seal, could sing the movie listing and breathe soul into them. On his latest album, Soul, Seal respectfully tackles R&B classics by Al Green, Sam Cooke and James Brown and proves himself to be a worthy successor to their legacy.

It doesn't take long on the new Dido album, Safe Trip Home, to realize how much she's been missed. "Don't Believe in Love," the standout opening track and first single, returns the British singer-songwriter to classy territory with its jazzy, understated cool.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dirty Sexy Money: The Injured Party

Who isn't an injured party in the world of the Darlings? That's a much shorter list. Betrayals, lies, fighting, broken promises all play prominently here. Oh and Leticia is drunk behind the wheel of the car. How will this episode of Dirty Sexy Money turn out?

I was thinking how nice it is to see Tish out of the house driving and singing, until she runs over that young girl, Wren. It's never a good thing when a blond waif ends up under the front wheel of a Darling's car. Or is allowed to convalesce in their home. She wends herself into their lives, particularly Nick and Tripp's. The girl thinks Tripp is a saint, telling him there are a "million second chances," but she likes that he holds onto the first one. She may be more dangerous than Simon. And for all we know, she might be working for him.

When Nola speaks loudly at Tripp like he's deaf, it was simply hilarious. Tripp knows that Nola wants something from Patrick and yet Paddy is too stupid to see that. She wants to get Paddy into Agriculture — it isn't evident right away what for, but it becomes apparent that it's all about Simon having a political ally for his bio fuel. He is just using the Darlings to position himself to take over the world, or at least their world.

Not only is Simon a real jackdonkey, running/ruining Karen and Nola's lives, but now he slithers into Lisa's gallery and tries to give her some grist for the marriage mill. He offers her a look at that conversation between Nick and Karen, but Lisa whips out a scruple and refuses to watch. But curiosity being what it is, she calls him back to see it and is crushed. She shows up at the Darling party and goes medieval.

This leads to a knockdown drag-out fight between Karen and Lisa, which was perhaps one of the best scenes ever on DSM. There were so many juicy lines that it gets its own juicy line section, (mostly spoken by Karen):
"I smell trouble, or is that your perfume?"
"Sweetie, if I do that, he's just going to look at my ass."
"You and I have never been of the same class, but I'm not afraid to fight above my weight."

Jeremy: "Even an art chick has got limits."

Brian: "Now it's a family dinner."

Brian refers to the cancer doctor as "Quackenbush" and "Grim Reaper." But he's really irritated that he can't get Andrea into the treatment program. With only "a 10 percent chance of surviving one year," she prefers to live rather than take treatment that will make her sicker. The fight just gets them hot and bothered. She eventually agrees to the trial because after seeing the Darling and the George's in all their crazy glory realizes that her only hope of keeping Brian Jr. safe from them is sticking around, "I actually have to live."

Jeremy looks incredibly sexy in that hat; I don't know how Nola can turn him down. It must be taking all her will power to remain mad at him. He's too charming to shun for too long.

The Darling's host a family dinner and Tripp gives a toast about celebrating "perseverance and hard-earned second chances," with a nod to Wren, (even though she's probably younger than all of his children). Later when Tripp sees Nick with Wren, he fairly seethes with jealousy. Sadly, Leticia overhears Tripp's confession to Nick that perhaps she is not the only woman for him. Not sure he would have even made that leap if Wren hadn't suggested it to him. Again, I repeat, Wren is far more dangerous than Simon and I need to keep an eye on her. Little devil.

Tish gleefully lets Nola know that Jeremy wasn't her mistake and it cuts her to the quick. Nola was under the impression that he was just part of her getting into the family. But I think they both like each other — she's just too stubborn to admit it. Once Lisa tells Nick it's over she lets Jeremy take her back to his gallery and tangles her fingers around his cooing, "It's not about forever, it's just about tonight." Then they do it on the couch in the gallery. Nasty.

I have been wondering why Nola is working for Simon, and I finally find out that it's because he's got her little brother. "Who's my little soldier?" he asks her. Why he has her brother and what she owes him are still a mystery. After the big fight between Nick's rock and hard place, he goes to tell Simon, "No one has to pay me to destroy you. I'm more than happy to do it for free." Simon thinks he's being slick and powerful when he retorts, "If this is about Karen, don't worry, you can have her back when I'm done." Nick takes a slug. I don't think Simon had bargained for Nick coming after him. If Nick really has any ability to stop or slow Simon's evil ways down, this will play out interestingly.

Other non-fight related great lines:
"All these nozzles; they're very useful."
"My family's putting up half the jing for that wing."

This was a satisfying episode. And it only gets better.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pushing Daisies: Oh, Oh, Oh . . . It's Magic

A few weeks back, it was the circus that got a melancholy treatment on Pushing Daisies, and now, it's magic. No cute bunny rabbits and white handkerchiefs here — just a whopping dose of death, daddy issues, and the dastardly Dwight Dixon.

So Ned's half-brothers are magicians ("illuuuuuusionists!"), which has Ned hitting the Tums pretty hard. It's understandable: If my magician dad ditched me, only to go find some other family to love instead, I'd probably have some intestinal distress when forced to watch said loving family perform magic tricks, too. Ned tries to get himself up for the Two for the Show show ("I love magic. As much as I love other forms of popular entertainment."), but despite the "sequins and drama and the promise of bloodshed," the fact remains that magic just makes Ned think of the father he lost. And he realizes Maurice and Ralston can go about their magic business so easily because they don't know the truth about their father leaving; the Great Herrmann protected them, letting them believe their dad was attending to "manly man business."

Of course, the Great Herrmann ("Call me Great." "No.") meets his demise when a trick called Cementia goes horribly wrong. While the first suspect is Herrmann's assistant, it soon becomes clear that the real evildoer is the Geek, a magician who desperately wanted Herrmann's attention and possibly to be his successor on the Conjurer's Castle stage but never managed to be anything more than an opening act. And I gotta say, I'm with Herrmann on this one; all that glass-chomping and animal-regurgitating just made me feel queasy. Anyway, Ned and co. unravel the plot (removed shoe magnets, switched blocks of cement, etc.) and send the Geek off to the slammer.

Meanwhile, now that Ned can reconnect with the family he never knew he had, he wants Chuck to do the same. With the help of a little bug microphone pinned to Olive's sweater, Chuck can ask Lily all the questions she has about being a mother. After that hilarious but sad sequence of Chuck desperately trying to get Lily to admit to being a mother (as a telemarketer, cheese saleswoman, and life insurance peddler), it was touching to see her get some answers.

And just in time, too, because that rascally Dwight Dixon is poking around again. He already knows too much about Chuck's family, he's cozying up to Vivian, and now he's exhuming Chuck's coffin only to find it empty — making Chuck's "no body, no murder. Makes for a great urban legend, though" seem awfully prescient.

Some other thoughts:

I had to pause my DVR because I was laughing so hard at Olive accidentally calling Maurice and Ralston "magically delicious little devils" to Emerson.

Lily's bird drinks martinis!

What on earth was that black feather getup of Chuck's?

Some of the special effects in this episode (the red velvet curtain, the random sperm interlude) seemed a little odd to me.

So wonderful that Alexandria is getting a copy of the Magic Book of Magic, too. Unlike the Geek, her loyalty deserves a reward.

I cracked up at Chuck's suggestion that they play "ding-dong, ditch" at the aunts' door.

I am wondering what Dwight is up to now that he's found the empty coffin.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Book Review: A Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger

Sebastian Junger possesses a chilling photo. It is of himself, barely a toddler, sitting on his young and happy mother's lap. Behind them stand two men, one, an unexceptional looking workman has a hammer jutting out of his pocket. The other, the central figure of the photo, stands with one enormous hand across his mid-riff. The second figure is Albert DeSalvo, convicted Boston Strangler. It is impossible to look at this photo and not feel the horror of not only what happened when 13 Boston area women were murdered, but what could have happened that would have changed the author's life forever.

Albert DeSalvo worked as a carpenter in the Junger home. Spent hours in their home alone with Sebastian and his mother. Seeing this photo, it is easy to see how the Boston Strangler case became an obsession with the author. Before the Strangler is apprehended an older woman is murdered in their neighborhood and a black drifter (Roy Smith) is tried and convicted of the crime.

So as an adult Junger explores this murder in his neighborhood, researches the man that was convicted and sent to jail for it, as well as the other crimes committed by DeSalvo. His conclusions? Inconclusive. It is possible that Roy Smith was sent to jail for a crime committed by DeSalvo. But Smith's life is so pointless it is hard to feel much empathy for him. He drops out of school in the 8th grade, and begins living a petty life of drinking, occaisonal jobs, and crime. He lived his life in a way that almost begged to be of interest to police.

Junger examines DeSalvo's life too, but not in enough new detail to make it interesting either. So by the time Junger publishes this book, DeSalvo is dead, Roy Smith is dead, most people associated with the Strangler case are dead. Some historic crimes and mis-application of laws are interesting. This is only mildly so and didn't warrant a new book on the matter.

I am someone interested in a compelling read, a cogent argument, a fresh insight, a thought provoking issue. I'm afraid none of these are to be found in this book. Open the fly-leaf, look at the photo, feel the horror it evokes, and move on.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bones: Passenger in the Oven

Well, I didn’t think it was possible, but um, did I discover the one woman impervious to Booth’s charm? Hello? The plane seat was empty. Seeley Booth wants a massage seat…what’s the problem? In other news…

This was by far my favorite episode this season. The case was fierce, the squints were snarky, Booth was a stud and Brennan was a squinty smartypants scientist! Who could ask for more?

The Case: A very interesting one. Brennan and Booth are en route to China so Dr. B. can examine some remains. But, first, there’s a little somethin’ somethin’ called a dead body in the oven of the plane! AGH! Booth is grossed to the max, Brennan is nonchalant. I liked the way the whole thing played out, and it was actually kind of intense at the end there. I was surprised and saddened by the murderer.

The Squints:
1. Honorary Member: Caroline Julian: She made me laugh in her way, and she took care of business. Well done.

2. SUPER Honorary Member: Hands down, Booth’s seat mate on the plane with the love of murder and Mary Poppins purse.

3. Cam: Ah, she was good, smart, fine, nothing special, but she’s still golden after the episode. She’s the cat.

4. Sweets: Nice shorts. And, I’d say you look more like…….17.

5. Angela and Hodgins (see how I did that?) Hmmm…interesting. I liked their chats, and I’m interested in the fact that even when they are not together, they seem to still be swirling around each other. But, I’m going to hold off on further analysis until more results are in. But I want to know what you think!

Booth and Brennan:Was it me, or were B+B flirting with each other this entire episode? Like serious flirting? I mean, I liked it, but I was surprised by it, I guess. To me, this episode marks the first time this season Booth and Brennan were both totally confident and utilized in their professional roles. Of course, they weren’t in the lab or the interrogation room, but I thought there was a lot of symbiosis (word of the day!) between them. I love that Booth took care of business in the case. I haven’t seen that for awhile, and Brennan did her thing too, and very expertly, which I also love. I love when she goes MacGuyver and figures things out using random objects. I really do. But what do you all think about Brennan’s continual questioning of Booth re: why everyone thinks they are ‘together’ together? Did you notice the way Booth kept changing the subject? Hmmm…

Favorite line of the night: Right. What I want you to do is take off your glasses, shake out your hair, and say, ‘Mr. Booth, do you know what the penalty is for an overdue book?’

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Eli Stone: The Humanitarian

Things have been pretty unusual for Eli and the rest of the people who didn’t fall on to the dark side, with the split of companies and all. So far this season, Eli didn’t really get a chance to work a “real” case and do so with the little help from above, since they clearly leave no doubt now that, at the very least in Eli’s mind, his visions are a direct message from God.

Eli has been having visions and he’s been in court, even though he was not always allowed to, but it was to help Jordan and ensure their new company would have a future. Now that this is done and everyone picked a side, they can slowly move into a new daily routine. Except that, here, it’s never that easy, and they don’t ever get such a thing.

So yes, Eli worked a “regular” case and yes, he had a vision about it. Three, in fact, three visions. But here’s the thing : turned out the visions weren’t premonitions to warn him that a fire was coming up (as I actually thought at first…), they needed a little interpretation : “stay away from that case” was the message.

That was a first, in two ways. First of all, his visions have never told Eli what he should not do, what he should stay away from, what cases he should avoid, his visions have on the contrary brought Eli to his cases and/or clients, they have guided him to ensure that what needed to be done would be done. This time, however, and for some undetermined reasons, they were telling him to back off. So I guess the visions are even more than ever reacting to what Eli does.

And now for the secondary effect : Eli, for the first time ever (unless I’m mistaken) decided to go against his visions. He knew what they meant, what he was “asked” to do, or not to do, but he decided that “God” must be wrong on that one, and that he would simply ignore the visions and take the case anyway. And he won, he won the case which resulted in the firm getting a very important client, which then led to other clients to join in.

This was more than welcome, because while they were struggling, the Empire was counting scores and they were clearly winning, 86 to 5. But now that Eli won, and did so while still managing to stand up to his client, because while pretending to have his son’s best interest in mind he was actually only thinking of himself, Eli was inspirational — the son now wants to get emancipated, and he’s turning to Eli for help.

This could be trouble, obviously. This could be trouble for the very young firm, and for Eli - since threats against his brother have clearly already been made. And with in mind the fact that Eli was told, with not one, not two, but three visions, to stay the hell away from this case in the first place… Well, this could be trouble. I don’t know what will happen next, what will Eli do, but it sure sounds interesting.

Meanwhile, many fillers and boring subplots. For starter, but Jordan bursting into a song didn’t really do it for me, and got a little long on the side. Anyways, while she’s not the excruciating pain she used to be last season, I really couldn’t care less about Maggie not fitting in at the new place and whatnot.

Just like Taylor and Matt having problems, all the while he doesn’t know that she happens to be pregnant, makes me sleepy. And if I was happy to finally see Keith get something to do this season (I mean did he do anything before that??) I soon saw it vanished, when it turned out that he only got a bogus case so that he could start dating Patty’s daughter. Butter knife or not, this failed to be good. (Side bar: how old are they ? She seemed quite younger than he is, no?)

I can only hope the addition of cocaine to the mix is there to make things interesting, though I’m not sure it really will be.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Fringe: The Equation

Well, after eight episodes I can say I’m officially hooked. While things started off a little slow on this show, I can now see why FOX was willing to throw out that full season pick-up in early October. They’d probably already seen at least scripts or early screenings for some of these episodes, and I'm finally starting to get somewhere with the Pattern. Oh, I don’t have any idea what the hell it is, what it’s about, and what they’re trying to accomplish, but at least they’re touching on it.

Another week, another person with a cryptic name. This time it’s the Attendant, and she’s trying to get a formula completed. And this is one hardcore bitch, too. Trotting out Ben’s mom only to have her die right in front of him when he proves unable to complete the musical composition (it’s also the formula, don’t ya know!). And it’s not the first time she’s used such ruthless psychological tricks to try and finish. But I still don’t know how Ben (the boy musician) suddenly learned to play and got hooked on that composition, or how Bishop’s friend Dashiell got obsessed with the formula so many years before.

John Noble was absolutely stellar in this episode. With facial expressions alone he was able to express such a breadth of emotion during his impromptu incarceration. I’ve read online in a few places that some people aren’t sure about the casting of Joshua Jackson on this show. Everyone seems to agree that John Noble is turning in masterful work, but I think Jackson is doing a wonderful job of playing his foil. He has just that blend of sarcasm and heart to make it work.

And while I'm at it, let’s give Anna Torv some credit, too. Not once did she pull me from the story or action with bad acting or awkwardness. In fact, she was downright effective in her role. It looks like Torv may have finally figured out her character. She was intelligent, commanding and a little bit Jodie Foster in The Silence of the Lambs when tracking the Attendant. Too bad that damn green-green-green-red is so effective or she would have had her.

In the end, though, I guess it doesn’t matter because the people behind the Pattern are as ruthless as they are elusive, and the Attendant had outlived her usefulness now that she’d completed the formula. Should I just call them “The Others.?” Maybe I’ll find out that they’re behind the island on Lost, too. Abrams could be building his Abrams-verse and I don’t even know it.

Friday, February 20, 2009

My Own Worst Enemy: The Night Train to Moscow

I'm still not convinced that Janus is as great a spy organization that they claim it is. As much as I enjoy the exploits of Henry Spivey and Edward Albright, I would have to coldly agree that he needs to be put out of commission. I'm not sure why Mavis wants to protect him. Maybe if I was given something along the lines of "they could shut down our whole project" if Edward was discovered. But all I get is that Edward is just a really valuable agent and that he's worth keeping even though he's a malfunctioning head-case. I don't see the value really. I'm sure he's good at the spy game, and he's at least as capable as any of the other spy heroes I've seen on TV and movies, but I just don't see the appeal of keeping him.

Maybe if I thought Janus was doing some good in the world. They just seem like a shady black-ops thing to me, and I just don't buy the "for good of the country" line. I feel like I need to like what Edward does a little more. Maybe that would help me not want to erase him. They did try and give Edward a little more "heart" in this episode. I find out that he really wants to track down the KGB baddies that killed his parents, and that he might actually be developing human feelings toward Dr. Skinner.

Henry, on the other hand, is a complete mess. He accidentally sees Angie out of the neighborhood, and catches her in a lie. After finding an old spy-coded photo, he spends the episode believing that Angie might be a planted operative from Janus. And if that wasn't bad enough, Edward/Henry needs to help KGB planted political-wife Mariam Shefer rescue her husband from…well, the KGB.

Mariam just conveniently happens to be an agent that was assigned to her husband as well, but shows Henry that it doesn't mean that she didn't grow to truly love her husband over the years. It was a little bit forced, but then I realized that the life lessons on a show like this would kind of have to come at you like a hammer.

In the end, Henry finds out that, not only is Angie not a spy, but that her super-sex with Edward actually made her feel close to Henry again. Edward's bedroom gymnastics actually might have saved Henry's marriage. It would be nice if this moment led to a better partnership between Edward and Henry. It already seems like they're working better together, and have put aside most of their resentment of the other's mere existence.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Prison Break: Quiet Riot

OK, so apparently they’ve given up on actual show titles, and from now on, I’ll just use 80s bands, is that it? Actually, this association points out how important music is in building suspense. Don’t believe it? Try watching The Omen, hitting the mute button and whistling the Three Stooges theme. Suspense, double crosses, and Gretchen in a schoolgirl outfit. How can you miss?

So in order to get to the Scylla nerve center, the crew has to get through a room with pressure, heat and sound sensors. But instead of making the scene a Mission: Impossible retread, Michael has the crew construct a kind of suspension bridge, periodically using liquid nitrogen to cool the room. Nice variation. No dialogue for this entire scene, just minor assembly noises and that music.

Meanwhile, Bagwell takes a couple of provocative pictures of Gretchen to send to General Krantz. She sends one with a message to meet her. Defying Lisa’s suspicions, the General heads to the meet. To Gretchen’s dismay, he leaves the card behind. He pulls a gun and orders her out of his life.

As Bagwell wrestles with the temptation to settle into Cole Pfeiffer’s life, he and Gretchen plant a phony meet with Feng. Trishanne and Self head to the location, only to be abducted by Feng’s men. Gretchen and Bagwell plan to use them as bargaining chips to get Michael to hand over Scylla.

Interesting to see the resurgence of women in the mix. Veronica was a key component to the first season, but Sara has been the only prominent female role on the show. Sofia Lugo was a dud last season, and Gretchen had only a half-season to work with. Now TrishAnne, Gretchen and Lisa all seem to be enjoying some pretty hefty portions of the storyline.

Michael, by the way, decides to put off his brain surgery so he won’t leave the team hanging. He crosses the bridge to Scylla’s glass wall, fighting mental issues as he approaches. He cuts through the glass and crosses to the unit, but as the episode closes, the final alarm signals General Krantz, who mobilizes his forces and heads for the basement.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Complications

You'd think that eliminating Cromartie would end all the Connors' troubles, but apparently, Cromartie isn't necessarily gone (he's still appearing in dream sequences) and all the troubles continue.

I consider myself to have at least average intelligence, but this episode had me confused. What was the significance of Sarah touching the three dripping blood dots on the wall at the end? Is it just something to make Sarah and the audience cogitate further on the mystery behind them?

On a side note, I was very glad they tortured the real Charles Fisher and threw him in jail. I'm still pissed off at him for killing Tara back when he was Warren.

My first question is: why does Skynet even take human allies? I thought the goals of the machine were to exterminate all humans and set up a more organized and logical society (on a sad note, I know people who agree with at least one of those goals). Is the idea that humans know how to torture other humans better than machines do?

At first, I thought this episode would only be in pieces and not include Ellison and Catherine Weaver. Obviously, since Weaver has a Terminator, the stakes have risen. If anybody has the resources to repair his chip, she does.

That Ellison. What a lying bastard. He deserved the ass-kicking. He doesn't know how deep the human race is in it by giving Cromartie to Weaver.

I was somewhat disappointed by the much-too-soon reveal of Paul Stewart. I think it would have been more interesting if they killed him not knowing whether or not he was a Skynet agent from the future. Mind you, if they did that, they would not have been able to move the plot along as they did (I now know why he was sent back), but it would have made for better drama and deal with the series' theme of the cost of war (much like Sarah's dreams).

I loved it when Cameron called it "rehydration fluid".

It's about time Sarah got some therapy. Like John before her, she's seen too much crap to not go to a psychologist. It must be tough when the future of the human race depends on not telling your shrink the whole truth.

The conversation between Jesse and Derek in the car after they buried Fisher/Stewart was interesting. Are we dealing with alternate futures here? Or rather, is Derek a sleeper agent for the machines whose memory was wiped? If it's the alternate future theory, I'm wondering when the sea otters will appear. This concept may unnecessarily over-complicate the series and I'm hoping the creators provide another explanation.

I wonder if the other Mr. Fisher (the one who ended up in jail) will appear again in the future? I certainly hope so.

Overall, I found the episode to be somewhat 'eh'. It's obviously part of a bigger story, but in order to survive in its imminent Friday night death slot, this series has to gain tremendous buzz. The series really excels when it uses flash forwards and hopefully, there will be more in future episodes (possibly even alternate future flash-forwards). That is, of course, assuming the show has a future. Here's hoping that Friday, February 13th, is not Judgment Day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Family Guy: Tales of a Third Grade Nothing

After sneaking a visit to the executive bathroom at the brewery, Peter decides that he wants to earn a promotion. He tries out various wacky ideas to impress and eventually gets the call from Human Resources, but realizes he needs to complete the third grade in order to qualify. A series of random-yet-somehow-cohesive events lead to Peter competing in a spelling bee and winning against a kid named Omar, and eventually not getting the promotion despite completing the third grade because he burned down a building full of kids and has to spend a week in jail. Judy Blume would surely scorn this episode for the title reference.

Yes, it's convoluted, but it flows relatively well, and despite a terribly unfunny throwaway B-story featuring Brian, Stewie and Frank Sinatra Jr. opening a club, the episode succeeds mostly due to Peter's renewed charm. Keeping things simple for Peter works. Despite the ridiculous storyline, Peter's singular motivation to gain access to the executive bathroom (which is cleverly introduced with a nod to Jurassic Park as "Executive Bathroom Island") is the key story driver in the episode, and it all holds up reasonably well. Family Guy isn't supposed to necessarily rely on highly intelligent narratives, but it doesn't hurt to have a somewhat cohesive story.

Peter's classroom scenes were the best moments of the episode. His insensitive insults towards Omar would put a smile on anyone's face for being so blatantly politically incorrect. The reaction of the other kids was priceless. Peter's awkward attempt to get out of class by inviting Quagmire to pretend to be his father is another excellent moment. The random kids that he may have fathered that pop up in nearly every classroom was a hilarious gag that totally fits the character. Tom Tucker's inability to pronounce Omar's last name was another groan-worthy segment, and Peter's persistent requests from the judges to use the word in a dirty sentence was also very funny.

Fortunately the laugh-out-loud moments weren't just reserved for the story elements - there were quite a few memorable manatee jokes distributed throughout the episode. Standouts include Stewie's comment about Michael Jackson's treatment of his own groin, his conversation with the gazelle about his lawyer, and Peter's gift of hope to a homeless man were particularly memorable. Also noteworthy was a hilarious rant by Yosemite Sam, an appearance by Emperor Palpatine at the club, and a brilliant John Madden wedding video commentary segment.

The difference between this week's random jokes and the uninspired drivel I've been subjected to lately is that there was a bit more thought and creativity behind the cultural references. It's not enough to just re-enact a scene from some classic television series or movie - there needs to be more than just the random reference, and replacing a character with Peter or another cast member isn't enough. Despite the obvious bathroom humor, the Jurassic Park reference is a good example of taking things further. Sure it wasn't the funniest movie reference ever, but it was made memorable by the additional story-relevant content and the absurdity of the entire sequence.

It featured a charming Peter going out of his way just to accomplish some goal that only he would care about, a convoluted storyline that actually has some kind of logical flow, and more than a fair share of genuinely funny and outrageously offensive jokes.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Simpsons: Homer and Lisa Exchange

There are two ways of looking at my expectation level for this episode after the shockingly bad trip into the pasts of the Simpson family members. You could argue that because things seemed so bleak, any speck of creativity or humor would shine in comparison. On the other hand, you could also say my claws were only sharpened. Thankfully my praise for this episode is earned and there are few items which I can take my sharpened claws to.

Lisa becomes an expert at solving crossword puzzles and enters a tournament, where Homer gets involved with an underground betting ring. Voices include crossword editor Will Shortz and crossword creator Merl Reagle as themselves.

Besides Homer's participation in underground betting, our favorite Safety Inspector found yet another calling in life. Yes, another. Sure he's climbed The Murderhorn, gone to space and as we saw earlier this season, become a bounty hunter. But this episode saw one of the most inspired choices in years for a Homer storyline. So inspired I wish it hadn't been used as filler for the beginning of an episode which it ultimately had no connection with. For a free beer, Homer dumps Principal Skinner on behalf of Ms. Krabappel. Word spreads that Homer has the gift of not only taking the pressure off the dumper but also leaves the dumpee feeling great.

In a nod to Hank Azaria's character Agador in the 1996 film The Birdcage, Azaria once again rolled his R's and put on a heavy Latin accent to play Julio, the soon-to-be spurned ex-lover of Homer's old roommate, Grady.

He stumbled upon the backroom shenanigans while at a crossword competition with Lisa. Did anyone take special note of Homer saying, "Gambling is a more sound investment than any stock, bond or real estate investment"? I pondered this line for minutes. Unlike South Park, where the animation can be tweaked up until the day before air, writers of The Simpsons must predict what will be timely months from the time they put pen to paper. In a good economy, this line could be taken as, "Oh, that Homer. An economist he is not." But as more and more global economies circle the drain, Homer is once-again, the idiot savant font of wisdom. Emphasis on the "idiot." Intentional or not, the line was an all-around great Simpson-esque observation of our current predicament.

In what could be described as both a heartwarming story and an Emmy grab, Homer found his relationship with Lisa non-existent when he admitted to betting against her in the contest. At least his bet paid off. Ultimately Lisa lost to Crossword Shark Gil.

This episode provided a healthy balance of humor, story and heart. Exactly what makes a great Simpsons episode! If there's a formula, then that's it. It may not always equal gold but it at least seems in line with the classics of the past. Homer really seemed to find his niche as an ender of relationships.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Eleventh Hour: Frozen

I was thinking how despite coming up with a potentially exciting and wide open concept, the show had so far failed to deliver even a single episode that really felt strong, and could leave me hopeful that in the future this show could turn into something pretty good. Which is why I was rather happy while watching this episode, as finally I got one !

One pretty good episode that, while certainly not perfect, felt quite stronger and better than the ones before it. I think that this was the best episode so far, and a sign that there might be hope for the show to really find its tone and get better week after week, which could result in something rather interesting.

I won’t say this episode was perfect or that nothing was wrong with it, but I would say that I feel what bugged me the most was coming from the local cop. She knew she was interrogating an ex-cop, someone who knew how they work, and yet she still tried to “force” him, or trick him, by lying in a way that was not only enormously obvious, but also had no chance to work.

Also, I wasn’t too fond of the fact that not one but both women were interested in Hood. It’s never really happened before, and out of nowhere not only a young student but also the local detective showed interest in him, which just felt a but too much.

Other than that I thought this was a pretty good episode. I was glad that I didn’t get to see Rachel ask some silly question only to have Hood make a little demonstration for the sake of it. There was that time he was teaching students who ended up helping him, when he took over the lab, but it felt like an integral part of the investigation more than just a little show for the audience.

Hood wasn’t just demonstrating something he could have had explained in a couple of sentences otherwise, he was trying to find out what killed the victims, and the whole experiment with the hamburger was actually serving a real purpose : to see whether or not they had found the murder weapon.

While investigating a serial killer is nothing really something I've never seen, and cryogenic isn’t a new topic to the genre either, the show did a pretty nice job at merging the two and conducting an investigation that kept introducing new suspects, more or less related to the cryogenic company, Forever Forward. And it worked, because despite his remarks about cheating death, and the fact that there were not really any other suspect that really fit the profile (as someone form Forever Forward would have no real reason to use such a murder weapon linking to the company so directly) and, looking back, there were many hints toward the guy, I still didn’t really had it figured out very soon.

I also liked that the episode didn’t lack humor, including what I thought was actually funny. For instance I liked the preservation of heads only, not so much because in the future people will be able to clone a brand new one, but really because it’s cheaper. Plus, seeing those heads like that, with a Futurama look to them, looked pretty funny to me.

I wouldn’t say this show is a great one, but it finally seem to be getting better, so maybe there’s hope…

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Life On Mars: Tuesday's Dead

Ever since I posted about Windy being an hallucination, she’s been strangely absent. That seems to follow the formula that they’ll bring her back perhaps once more, then again in the season finale for the big reveal that she’s not real. I’m going with that.

The what’s-happening-to-Sam theme of the week here was a mixture of coma, with a smidge of insanity. Things seem to lean so heavily toward Sam being in a coma that it seems to have red herring written all over it.

As far as the past vs. future references go, they are clever but they may need to ease off just a tad. The opening typewriter scene I liked, the dance moves, though, were maybe a little too much. But I have to admit, if I was in Sam’s shoes, I’d definitely be pulling off a moonwalk or break dance at some point.

I never really thought before about how much Sam would know regarding law enforcement and hostage negotiation techniques beyond what his ’70s counterparts know. Sam’s got 30 some-odd years on everyone in law enforcement advancement, so something’s gotta come into play in a major way at some point.
As for Sam’s predicament (I guess that’s what I’ll continue to call it), I’m wondering why he doesn’t try passing a note to the future with someone to his fiance. I’d like to see an episode where he at least contemplates that, though I can’t say how it would even work. But I did think Sam was going to do that in this episode in order to give them a “sign” he was hearing what they said.

Bilateral Cingulotomy. Is this maybe something that’s affecting Sam? I ask because, when he looked into Johnny’s eyes, the music set a tone that said “this is significant.” However, that could just have meant to look for his smile toward the end of the episode.

Speaking of crazy people, what was with Mr. Noodle playing a looney-bin doctor? God that was disturbing.

Songs in this episode:
The Propositions - “Sweet Lucy”
Grand Funk Railroad - “We’re an American Band”
Cat Stevens - “Tuesday’s Dead”

Friday, February 13, 2009

CSI: Say Uncle

A cheerful afternoon in Koreantown turns deadly when a hail of bullets comes out of nowhere. People run for cover, but one little boy stands still, spattered in blood.

Later in the day, the police and CSIs are at the scene. Two people are dead – a man and a woman. The man is Sung Bang, recently released from prison. The woman is unidentified. The crowd is unhelpful, but a pair of child’s sunglasses covered in blood tells them that there’s one witness out there who is not talking just yet.

Doc Robbins illuminates Grissom on a few points with the bodies. For one, two separate guns were used, and the trajectories of the bullets were very different. The girl also seems to be a drug addict and also a hooker, but she’s had plastic surgery. Generous pimp.

Brass hunts out the plastic surgeon that altered the victim’s eyelids, who says he was held at gunpoint by the K.D., a Korean mob, and forced to perform the surgery before being extorted.

Meanwhile, the CSIs find surveillance footage from a department store where the male victim was seen earlier that day. The footage comes from Dempsey’s forensic services. The footage also includes images of a young boy, perhaps the same kid that witnessed the crime.

They track down Child Protection Services and identify the child: Park Bang, Sung’s nephew. The woman is Park’s mother, Kora Sil, and she, like her son, is HIV positive. She’s done time for prostitution with H.I.V. They find her MySpace and track the IP to a residence in Koreatown, the Pan residence. Mr. Pan has no idea where Park is, but he was friends with Park’s family, which is why he let’s Kora use his computer..

Nick tries to track Park and Sung’s path from the department store to Koreatown, looking for anything they might have left behind. Hodges manages to find it all pretty much instantaneously in a garbage can. The CSIs burst into the household, looking for Park, and encounter a hostile old woman with a gun. They also find a little boy! It happens to be Park, who is taken to a hospital where he is examined. He’s not well at all, with skin lesions and a gastric feeding tube.Brass attempts to get Park to identify the shooters, but to no avail. Grissom tries to get the information he needs, and eventually Park allows him to collect samples. A man by the name of Dr. Eastling comes in and attempts to give Park some “medication,” but Park obviously doesn’t want it. Grissom is suspicious. With good reason, because Park’s blood panel comes back and he has many, many drugs in his system. It looks like he’s on some clinical trials.

Park’s fingernail scrapings include the DNA of Jin Ming, A.K.A. Mr. Pan. He’s an ex-con who may or may not be a part of the K.D. Of course, he seems to have left town, and all that’s left in his house is the furniture in his basement where Park and his mother lived. The basement is booby trapped with a bomb, but no one was seriously hurt.

Besides the bomb, Greg finds a business card for a lawyer, who tells him that Kora was suing Park’s doctor for more money from the drug trials. Grissom confronts Dr. Eastling about his medical malfeasance and Eastling goes away with little choice. Park is grateful enough to let Grissom ask him questions. It turns out that Sung found him in Jin’s basement and took Park away when he saw how he was being treated, fighting both Kora and Jin in the process. Jin and Kora found Park with Sung, and Jin shot Sung and Kora.

However, the evidence seems to be telling another story. Sung, after all, left jail with a gun. Perhaps Kora shot Sung and Sung shot Kora back from his position on the ground, causing the strange trajectory. Riley and Grissom decide to settle this debate by reenacting the crime with dummies. They discover that neither of their theories are correct. Due to the angle, it would have had to be Park who shot his mother after she shot Sung.

This episode seemed, more than anything, intent on sowing some seeds of doubt into Grissom’s mind about his job. Just like Sarah, he’s beginning to wish some cases wouldn’t be solved, simply because of how horrifying they are. Anything to give him a plausible excuse for leaving. It makes me sad to see him going the same way as Sarah though, especially when he’s been so steadfast throughout the rest of the series. Either way, I must make the most of Grissom while I have him. At least I’ll get another visit from the miniature killer!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Supernatural - I Know What You Did Last Summer

Anna can hear angels. She knows all about the impending apocalypse, Lillith and her wanting to break 66 seals to release Lucifer from Hell. Apparently she can also “see” demons when they possess humans and can move things with her mind. It is no wonder that everybody wants to get their hands on her.

Sam and Dean are trying to hustle a guy in a bar at a game of pool when Ruby shows up. She tells them about Anna and that the demons are on a mad chase to find her and keep her alive. She tells Sam and Dean that they may want to find her and see why she is so important. Dean is not happy and tells Sam that he is treating her like she is family now. Sam tells Dean that Ruby saved him and if he wants to trade stories, Dean can go first.

Sam flashes back to 6 months earlier when he summons the crossroads demon. Man, am I glad that they didn’t go there with that story line. He called Sam his “co-worker”, that is not a good sign. Of course, Sam wants him to free Dean, which is impossible for him to do. Sam tells him to trade for Dean. The demon tells Sam that they have everything exactly the way they want it.

They arrive at the hospital Anna escaped from and talked to her doctor. She is convinced that she is schizophrenic. Sam and Dean go to talk to her parents and find them dead. They see a picture of Anna at church and remember the window from one of her drawings. They believe she is there, hiding. They get to the church and find Anna hiding. When they tell her who they are, she has heard of them. She tells them that the angels talk about Dean and that they believe that he will save them all. And that they don’t like Sam. She tells them that she can hear angels and it just so happened that she started hearing them the day Dean was pulled out of Hell. The first thing she heard was “Dean Winchester is saved.” Ruby shows up and says there is a demon after them. They hide Anna and Sam tries to exorcise the demon, but cannot. The demon knows Dean; it was someone he knew in Hell. Ruby manages to get Anna out as Sam and Dean get their butts kicked. Sam stabs the demon with the knife, but it does nothing. They jump out the window to get away, but leave the knife behind.

Dean is really nervous why Sam trusts Ruby so much. Sam finally tells him what happened while Dean was gone. Sam was jumped by a demon and Ruby (different body) just happened to be the other one. She played along that she was going to kill Sam and killed a demon instead. Sam kicks Ruby out of the car after they talk and he tells her to let the body go. So, she jumps to a body of a girl who is about to die. She shows up and tells Sam she can give him Lillith. She teaches him how to use his powers. Then, she comes onto him. Now I know why Sam likes her so much.

Dean is a little freaked out that Sam did the deed with her. He goes on to tell Dean that Lillith showed up in town and Ruby begged him not to go after her. He did anyway. It ended up being a trap, but Ruby showed up to save him. Sam ends up saving her by killing the demon who had her pinned up against the wall. While they are talking, “Ruby” shows up in the form of a housekeeping lady to tell them to leave. She is at a cabin with Anna. They arrive and Dean apologizes to Ruby, in a round about way. Anna is still worries about her parents, and they tell her that her parents are dead. She is upset and stops to say, “they are coming.” But the they are the Castile and Uriel. They say that they are there for Anna and she has to die. And then the thing that I dread the most………. TO BE CONTINUED! NOOOOO!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

My Name Is Earl - Earl & Joy's Anniversary

The plot of this particular episode revolved around Earl remembering the first anniversary of his marriage to Joy. That day was special because Earl's cousin Blake showed up and made Earl feel jealous and inferior as he bragged about sleeping with Joy. A swarm of killer bees trapped Earl, Randy, Joy, Blake and others inside the Crab Shack while Darnell, Catalina, Kenny and Patty the daytime hooker hid inside a phone booth. The day was also memorable because it was the day Earl and Joy finally decided their sham marriage was over and that they didn't really love each other. He may not have loved Joy as his wife, but Earl did care enough to protect her from a renegade killer bee, stabbing it with a corn dog stick just in the nick of time. You'd think an outlandish plot device like killer bees would inspire some killer jokes. Not really.

Jason Priestly was an odd choice for the role of Blake because he's not known as a comedic actor. Unfortunately, I still don't know if he can do comedy because he wasn't given anything to work with in a thankless role as a male model. Perhaps a sitcom veteran or sketch comedian could've done more with the part, but that seems like a stretch. Unlike Seth Green, Jenna Elfman, and David Arquette earlier this season, Priestley's stunt casting went to waste.

In the midst of forgettable jokes and a mediocre plot, there was one scene that worked really well – Randy had secretly taped Earl and Joy over the past year and took the footage to a wedding videographer to create an anniversary gift. The result was a funny montage of scenes showing Earl and Joy's complete disharmony, accompanied by cheesy video effects and the perfect soundtrack, "You're the Inspiration" by Chicago. Why couldn't the rest of the episode been equally as funny?

My Name is Earl has just become forgettable, which in terms of entertainment, is almost worse than being terrible. With a bland sitcom that was once great, there's not much to do except hope it gets better and long for the past.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bones: The Con Man in the Meth Lab

Once again, there was not much to the actual case, but It didn’t bother me in the least because I delved into Booth’s past and met his little brother- Lt. Commander Jared Booth. Not only was I treated to a look into Booths family, I saw significant changes and growth in the relationship between Booth and Brennan.

THE CASE: The episode opened to a police training exercise in which a body flew from an exploding meth lab. Meanwhile, Booth and Brennan are in a session with Sweets and Booth is relishing in the near-completion of the Rico investigation, a case that will boost his career and raise his salary. They are called to the crime scene, but not before Booth gets a call from his brother and further piques Sweets interest in his past.

There are multiple cases of mistaken identity before they correctly identify his body as Anthony Pongetti, a gambling con man who stole the identity of a fellow gambler, Jim Stegman. The team worked to solve the case with the long suffering Clark Eddison, who returned because they ‘are the best’. It was fun to see everyone welcome him back with open arms and more than a little good-natured teasing, he fits in, and hopefully they have closed the door on Zack replacements.

The state police send Trooper Brian Walcox to ask that Booth refrain from mentioning that the body was found during police training. Booth has been working with the state police on the Rico case but refuses to cover up for that, instead suggesting they try telling the truth, a move that will come back to haunt him later in the episode. With a group of predictable suspects they solve the crime relatively quickly, but not without incident. Brennan is shot in the arm when they go to take down the corrupt sheriff.

THE SECONDARY STORYLINE: It is Seely’s birthday and The Brothers Booth took center stage and I finally met Booth's younger brother - Jared Booth, who is now working at the pentagon. When Brennan agrees to take Cams place as Jared’s date for a cocktail party, Jared gives her his take on Booths career. “I don’t mean he’s incapable…my brother's very, very capable. Its like Seely’s afraid of success, he stays in his comfort zone.”

The fact that Brennan took his words seriously and believed him, really disappointed me because I was under the impression that their relationship was stronger than that. Jared proceeds to show how he Is different from his coward brother by kissing her.

Booth is called away from the investigation when his brother is arrested for drunk driving and the arresting officer is the state trooper Booth had refused to help, earlier in the episode. To save his brother's career he agrees to give the state police full credit for the Rico case, exchanging his career boost to keep his brother out of Jail.

When Brennan realizes that he didn’t get credit and he appears to not care, she attributes it to what Jared said. Angela advises her against pursuing a relationship with Jared, and Cam, with the help of Sweets, tries to explain the dark childhood of the brothers, and Booth’s role as protector of his Jared. This storyline comes to a head when Brennan tells Booth what Jared told her and couldn’t say no when he asked if she thought he was the type of man who sabotaged himself, a loser. The tension between Brennan and Booth was overpowering and I honestly felt like yelling at the TV. Why did Brennan have to be so……so bones? She redeemed herself when she confronted Jared about being the reason behind Booth's sacrifice and in a classic move, after making her exit, returned to push him off his bar stool.

The episode ended with the entire team (including Clark!) celebrating Booth's birthday. Brennan gives a lovely speech that is one part apology and one part praise, she tells Booth he needs to let his brother learn from his own mistakes. He realizes that he isn’t doing his brother any favors and tells Jared he won't bail him out again and he needs to stop drinking. The younger Booth brushes him off and the show ends with Booth and Brennan sitting side by side and Booth confiding in her that his father was an abusive alcoholic.

The GOOD: The entire episode was first rate. I especially liked seeing Cam's long history with the Booth Brothers, Clark's interaction with Hodgins and Angela, Brendan Fehr as Jared Booth, I was uneasy when I heard of the casting choice, but he was perfect for the part, and last but not least, the further developments in the Booth/Brennan relationship. They are perfect together but the tension is this episode was sorely needed and the ending was the perfect touch.

The BAD: I feel that the cases in the past two episodes have been lacking due to the extensive focus on character developments, and while I love the Bones team, I also like the crime aspect of it and hopefully well rounded cases will return next week.

All in all this was one of the best episodes to date, I believe Brendan Fehr is in two episodes this season, so I am sure his charismatic, alcoholic character will pop up again.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Eli Stone: Should I Stay or Should I Go

And here I was, thinking I might hear The Clash during this episode… Anyways. If there is one thing I’ve always praised when it comes to this show, it is change. Changes are usually not a common thing on TV, you don’t often see any real change in the life of a show, but on Eli Stone changes are pretty much the rules. Everything is always changing and evolving, and not always the way you think it would.

Of course the major changes going on at the moment, are the separation of Jordan and his former partners, and the new firm he is now creating, with Eli as a full partner. Seems that Eli will be his successor after all. And as I expected, during the split every employee is being pursued by Posner, not only because theyare great lawyers, but also to hurt Jordan.

Some choices seemed pretty obvious, and as the episode was moving forward it looked like, indeed, Maggie would obviously stay, just like Matt could eventually decide to do the same after all. And he was actually convincing, both in that he actually cared for this case he was working with Eli, and that he really was affected and wanted to win it and help those people, and also in that it affected him to much and he didn’t want to do that anymore, didn’t want to live with loosing cases such as this one.

So far I used to think of him as mostly a jerk, and I never really understood what Taylor saw in him, but for the first time I think he actually looked like a nice human being. That’s the Eli effect I guess.

I was shocked to see Eli working on this case. Not because of the case or anything, but because it seemed to be the first time maybe ever since he got his aneurysm, and the related visions, that Eli was working a “regular” case. Usually he has visions, visions that lead him to the case, tell him which case to take or how to win it.

But this time, Eli’s visions seemed to be all about Maggie, and not the case. Eli cares about her for some reason, and he really didn’t want her to leave. Turned out his visions actually caused her to leave, and were at the same time - and in some quite twisted way - related to the case Eli was on. About Eli, Maggie, marriage. I did see a future with the two of them together last season, but this season also introduced the idea that all of Eli’s visions, unlike what I first saw and his dad’s, Eli’s visions might never come true.

The whole “Live Brave” could very well never happen now, because Eli changed something. Just like his visions made him do what he was trying to prevent - Maggie turning to the dark side. Now while I guess I can see why Eli cares for Maggie, even though it would have to be more superficial than anything, I mean she might have believed him first, but she was also a real incompetent PITA, really.

Which bring me to question why did Posser hire her ? I know, as she said, he wanted to hurt Jordan and Eli, and he knew grabbing Maggie would probably do just that. But it’s not like Maggie was Patty, it’s not like Eli really relied on her all that same. Plus, they offered her a lot, senior associate and a raise, and still working on cases she wants to, all that to hurt Eli & Jordan ?? Because, while this season she actually behaved, last season she was clearly awful, she didn’t know anything about anything, she didn’t know how to question a witness, nothing.

Really, it was hard to believe she was actually allowed to be in court, because anyone who graduated, just to get your diploma, you had to know more about law than she did. So it seemed to be a bit much for them to go that far, but what do I know.

Now it seems the the new company will have a lot less people around. Of course Eli, Jordan, Taylor and Patty are still there, but we know Matt and Maggie left. It wasn’t really clear, but I’m assuming Keith did stay with Jordan, and maybe will get something to do as a result of it? What’s for sure is that changes went down, this is a new start for Eli & co, and I’m really curious as to what will come next. What’s great is that because everything is always changing, you never really know what to expect from this show.

For a while now, Eli hasn’t been having his usual visions, linked to a case he got really involved in. There was Jordan being sued, loosing his company, the split and everyone leaving, but now that all of this is done, it will be interesting to see how things will actually evolve.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Fringe: In Which We Met Mr. Jones

“Hello Peter, this is me, your father. Walter Bishop.”

An agent named Mitchell collapses from what appears to be a heart attack, but when the doctors open him up there is a horrifying gray-slimy-thing-with-tentacles-that-look-like-teeth nestled around his heart. Good god. Walter has never seen it before, but research leads him to one David Robert Jones and a “scientific terrorist” cell called ZFT, apparently one of several. Jones specializes in genetic weapons.

Olivia plans to confront Mr. Jones so he will tell her how to save Mitchell. But he’s in a German prison. Off to Germany! Where she reconnects with tall-dark-and-sexy Lucas and is instantly awkward and all smiles. Meanwhile, back in the states, Charlie calls Broyles and informs him that there is a mole in the agency. Broyles is in Walter’s lab at the time, and when he says the name “Joseph Smith” Peter looks surprised, then guilty. Hmmmmm.

Mr. Jones will not help Olivia unless he can ask Smith a question, but unknowing agents shoot Smith in the head first. Of course this is no problem, don’t worry at all, because Walter can hook up his son to the dead man so they can chat. He mentions that Peter has a low tolerance to electrical stimulation, and Peter suddenly remembers Walter experimenting on him as a child. He is not happy.

Back in Germany, Lucas asks Olivia to stay the night. She protests weakly. At his flat, they talk about why their relationship didn’t work out. Then they make out and tear at each other’s clothes for a spell before she gets a phone call and excuses herself, leaving Lucas addled and sexually frustrated.

In the Harvard lab, Peter eventually gets the answer to Mr. Jones’ question, and Jones tells Olivia how to save Mitchell. And I become absolutely certain that Broyles is the mole, underlining his name several times on my little notepad, only to learn that Mitchell and his wife are in on the whole thing. Oh, and the answer to Mr. Jones’ question -- and apparently the reason the Mitchells orchestrated this whole crazy situation -- is “Little Hill.”

Some notes:

* I never cease to be amused by Walter calling Astrid everything but her name – Astro, Asteroid, etc. Hilarious!

* Although I emitted an audible squeak when Peter called Walter “daddy,” I am nevertheless irritated that Fringe provided my most-anticipated moment via a drug-induced hallucination. But I did enjoy Peter buying his dad gum (adorable), and Walter’s absolute delight at working with his son, as well as the line “You may have found your true calling…working with me.”

* Olivia is definitely getting better. They’re writing a much more sarcastic tone for her, and when she sassed Broyles it was awesome.

* Peter only gave Olivia the Pacey look once this ep, so no romance for now.

* Broyles’ face when Walter started talking about fruit cocktail was priceless. I imagine the gag reel from this show must be pretty great.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

My Own Worst Enemy: This is Not My Son

I did get the big reveal that Dr. Skinner is actually a Systems Analyst for Janus, which makes total sense since someone had to assign her to be Henry's shrink in the first place. What was unexpected was her love affair with Edward - an affair that makes her feel the need to protect and save Henry as he bumbles his way through the entire deal. After she saved Henry from the phony FBI Agent, she then helped Edward pass a lie-detector test with regards to the agent's disappearance. It was only a moderately clever scene, since it solely relied upon the existence of a made up future-tech penlight/audio transmitter that provided Edward with alternate questions to answer.

Edward has really taken on a Tyler Durden-esque role - as extremely over-sexualized bruiser. There's no real reason given for Skinner's devotion to him other than the fact that he treats her like crap and gives her out-of-this-world sex. But, but by the end, Mavis figures out that Edward is definitely being protected by someone.

Some interesting developments came into light. One is that if Edward is ever discovered by boss-man Tromboll, he won't be executed like I originally thought. The Edward personality will just get erased, and Henry will live on. This seems to butt heads with the fact that the Systems Analyst agent was about to shoot him dead before he was saved by Skinner. There needs to be a bit of clarification around this. This is a very twisty plotline, and it can get muddled very easily. Agent Tom was taken prisoner in "Hello, Henry" and now Edward must head over to Beijing with a new Janus partner, Paula, to rescue him. The mission goes haywire when Henry appears in the middle of a gunfight and gets Paula all shot to hell. Tromboll seems so desperate to expose Edward that it seems a little far-fetched that he continues to accept the last minute saves and excuses that just manage to keep Edward off the chopping block. This organization seems like one that would actually just kill you if they suspected something was wrong.

While Paula lies in a coma, Mavis and Edward must make a decision about her dangerous knowledge of Henry, and Henry must try and figure out how to protect her from Edward and Mavis. In the best moment of the episode, Henry actually convinces Raymond that he's Edward, and makes Raymond leave the hospital without killing Paula. And that just leaves Skinner, to help Paula's normal alter-ego "Ellen" decide that she wants to snap and break into Janus and expose herself as being the broken operative. In the end, I find myself in a strange emotional moment when Paula is unjustly erased from existence, but the happy family gal Ellen lives on in her place.

Meanwhile, Janus must make it look like Tom had an affair to actually cover for the fact that Raymond was taken prisoner by the Chinese. And Henry discovers that his son has actually become secretly proficient in the martial arts and stick fighting. It's a revelation that he can't fully accept, since it means that Edward's genes are the actual DNA that's he's passed along. Edward is able to save the day by actually bonding with his son over the violent tournament fighting that he's been participating in.

I like this series, but I'm also waiting for both Edward and Henry to start acting smart in order to thrive, not just survive. The pettiness needs to get torched, and a new comradery needs to arise from the ashes.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Pam's New Music Downloads

To open her fifth album, Pink seals her split from motocross racer Carey Hart with a kiss-off. She continues to work through her breakup issues on Funhouse, and it makes for plenty of listening pleasure. "It's All Your Fault," is a long, mood-shifting rocker.

Lady Gaga, The Flame - This New York scenester brings a downtown party-girl vibe to her fun dance-pop debut. "Just Dance," the electro-infused first single, will bring out your inner club kid.

Ryan Adams' fourth-album with the Cardinals, Cardinology, glides by smoothly, even if it fails to truly soar. "Fix It," is the soul-soothing first single.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Prison Break: The Legend

With time running out for their chance to get a hold of Scylla, the team pushes forward with some help from the security engineer who designed the elaborate setup surrounding the still mysterious secret Company database. Scofield's health takes a turn for the worse and I learn that he's going to need surgery in the next 24 hours.

While the series does not necessarily represent the pinnacle of storytelling prowess, Prison Break writers should be given some serious kudos for their ability really stack individual episodes with tons of content. Under less capable hands, this episode would have stood out as nothing more than a filler episode leading into what should be an exciting season-defining episode. The difference here is that the writers chose the right material to include in the episode. Despite the fact that the episode focused mostly on Scofield going to the hospital, Mahone visiting David Baker, and Sucre's foot resting on a landmine, there were some great character moments in-between the action.

With Bellick's death still fresh on everyone's minds, there were plenty of flashback sequences and conversations about their fallen member. It's amazing how perceptions of Bellick have changed over the season. By the end, he could barely be compared to the badass prison guard he was in the first season. There was a short conversation between Sara and Scofield about Bellick that summed up nicely how he had evolved since his days at Fox River. Sucre seemed the most affected by Brad's death. He was the one to deliver the bad news to Bellick's mother at the end of the episode. It was also great to see the team bond together to stand up to Self in order to get a proper burial for Bellick and to have his body sent home. The moment where Mahone placed a badge on Bellick's chest was terrific and a great way to say goodbye to one of the series' original key characters.

Mahone's visit to David Baker provided the team with additional clues on how to break into Scylla facility and it contrasts the frantic work by the General's team to move the enigmatic black box. Yes I finally got a glimpse of Scylla - it looks like an encased black desktop computer case, but other than the fact that it's extremely important to the Company, I still know very little about it. It's also a difficult device to move, which means it's probably connected to a lot of other dependent systems. With the kind of security surrounding Scylla, the contents of the system had better be worth the protection.

Also in this episode, I learned that the secretary at GATE is an undercover agent working with Don Self. While it makes sense that Self would have someone at GATE working for him, it's not something that most people would have predicted. In one of her best scenes this season, Gretchen had a great conversation about "noodling" with T-Bag describing how she's using Scofield to get her hands on Scylla. Meanwhile, T-Bag pulls off a remarkably heartfelt speech about Bellick's death to some team members at GATE. T-Bag's reaction to Bellick's death was fantastic - despite the fact that he's a cannibalistic serial killer, he still feels sorrow for Bellick. It was a nice touch.

Of course, Scofield's condition was a cause for concern. I learned that he's suffering from a rare condition and needs surgery in the next 24 hours. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the time at the moment, as the opportunity to get their hands on Scylla is closing fast. While bits of the episode felt like filler material, the buildup was fantastic and the next break-in should be a memorable one.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Sarah Connor Chronicles: Mr. Ferguson is Ill Today

Well, they promised me death, and… well, I got a death. Kind of… I guess. In any case, this was definitely a sweeps-worthy episode. Told in a quasi-Rashomon multiple perspective style, it was definitely different. I’m not sure the story telling technique was used as effectively as it could have been, but it was good for the most part.

Can I really qualify the destruction of the Cromartie terminator as a death, or at the very least a death worthy of all the hype? I feel like it’s stretching it a bit. I was hoping that perky little Riley would be getting a couple bullets to the head, but alas it was not to be. If Cromartie does end up prolonging his dirt nap, it will be interesting to see what direction the show goes in. Will he be replaced by another model from the future? Will Catherine Weaver take a larger and more active role as the uber-villain? Will the Connors get a little breathing room? Time will tell, I suppose.

My guess is that I will get some further exploration into Jesse’s story. If I recall, she’s Derek’s ex-girlfriend from the future who showed up a couple weeks ago. I’ve already seen that she is carrying some intel on the Connors. What I don’t know is what her hidden agenda is. With a gaping hole in the villain category, I’m guessing that she’s up to no good.

I also think that I will begin to see more Catherine Weaver. She was looking for Cromartie, right? Is Ellison going to come clean with her and tell her about Cromartie’s destruction, perhaps leading her to his Mexican grave? I wonder if she’s really interested in Cromartie at all, or was it all just a front to get to Ellison? There is still a lot I don’t know about the mysterious T-1001 and her motives.

This was definitely a suspenseful and action-packed episode. Well, the second half of the episode anyway. The first half was a little heavy on Riley, but I will forgive it. I think I’ve bashed her enough for one review. Between Sarah’s escapades in the trunk of Cromartie’s car, the panicked fleeing in the Mexican village, and the shootout at the chapel, there were a bunch of great scenes. Personally, I loved Sarah’s complete and utter freakout/breakdown as she beat the hell out of Cromartie’s chip. Ah… Catharsis!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Family Guy: The Man With Two Brians

Let me start off by saying that I went out to dinner with my friend, and we polished off a bottle of wine, so when I watched Family Guy I was a teensy bit intoxicated- which may have made the episode funnier than it actually was. But, in general, even if I had been sober, I think it was a pretty awesome episode.

It begins with Peter and his friends watching an episode of Jackass which inspires them to be jackasses also, despite the big warning with the skull and crutches that prefaces every Jackass episode. Peter and the gang do a few humorous stunts: Peter rolls off the roof of his house in a shopping cart (and tweaks his neck horribly- it was gross), Quagmire puts honey all over his private parts and let’s a bunch of bees feast off the honey (when nothing crazy happens Peter pushes Quagmire into the other boxes of bees), and finally, Peter is pulled along by a car while on Roller Blades and then launches himself off a ramp into a lake. Injured in this pursuit, Brian swims out to save him, but becomes too tired, so Joe swims out, ties Peter and Brian up in his legs, and rushes them back to shore.

Hilarious as this first five minutes was it was merely setting up the plot of the rest of the episode. Peter realizes that Brian is getting older and cannot do all the things he may have been able to previously- so Peter gets a new dog and names it “New Brian”. New Brian is preppy and proper and going out of his way to make the Griffins feel at home. New Brian goes into Meg’s room to listen to her problems (Meg, apparently, saw girls on Discovery Channel who also have nipples that cover their entire breasts and so she felt better about herself—God, poor Meg!!). New Brian also gives Meg a stick of deodorant! Have I said it yet? POOR MEG!!

Among New Brian’s comforts are Peter and Lois waking up to the sounds of New Brian playing the flute, New Brian plays a guitar song for Peter, gives Brian a stick and a bag of Marijuana. Stewie catches wind of the fact that New Brian is trying to edge out old Brian, so Brian ultimately decides to leave, and gets no real resistance from the Griffin clan. Brian’s first stop is living with Cleveland (where Cleveland puts Brian on a leash, though, as we all know Brian is potty trained).

Next stop- Quagmire. This leads to a pretty funny scene where Quagmire explains a girl is coming over who is hot- but has a weird leg thing- and Brian needs to ignore it so he doesn’t scare off the girl. The doorbell rings and it’s Stewie who begins talking to Brian. Quagmire’s date shows up, Stewie makes a colorful comment about how ghastly the leg is, and she runs of crying. Then you hear Quagmire from the background scream “Damnit, Brian!” This was probably my second favorite scene when all was said and done.

Brian still isn’t convinced he wants to come back yet and soon there is a scene with New Brian in the kitchen baking something. Stewie comes in and says he knows what New Brian is up to, and that the chair doesn’t like having its leg humped. New Brian explains that he’s surprised the chair doesn’t like it, because Rupert certainly did the other night. As I know, Rupert is Stewie’s prized companion (toy). Stewie is clearly angry and stares New Brian down for a good six or seven seconds. Then it cuts to a scene outside, and I see Stewie dragging a heavy bag to the trash bin with a huge puddle of blood following! This was definitely the LAUGH OUT LOUD- SPIT YOUR DRINK OUT funny scene of the entire episode!! Brian, of course, moves back in after New Brian’s “suicide” (quotes because Stewie wrote a fake suicide note which was also very enjoyable to hear Peter read).

Intoxication aside, I laughed out loud a lot during this episode. It’s definitely a keeper. Family Guy continues its strong season where many other network shows seem to be losing viewership. Giggity!

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Simpsons: Dangerous Curves

I understand that The Simpsons have been on television for a very, very long time. I also understand that this is animated series and the characters do not age. This, of course, messes with the timelines and back-stories established by the series. Although these people are frozen at their current ages, the years are moving forward around them. Basically, anything that occurred "five years ago" in season two happened in 1988. Today, if the show refers to events from five years ago, they're talking about 2003. But the timeframe of events can be largely overlooked if two things remain consistent: the stories stay true to the characters, and the episodes are funny.

Unfortunately, "Dangerous Curves" just wasn't all that funny. As for staying true to the characters, it could have been worse. Personally, there haven't been many recent flashback episodes that I have enjoyed. The first ten or so seasons of The Simpsons did a fantastic job of establishing the Simpson family back-story. Episodes looking back from this era successfully stuck close to that reality. The latest flashback episodes, however, have changed a number of ideas. Last season's "That 90's Show" really irked me by establishing that Marge broke up with Homer and attended college before getting knocked up with Bart. That information changed the way I viewed Marge. She was no longer the innocent girl who fell for a boy, got pregnant before getting married and struggled to make it all work. "Dangerous Curves" doesn't do that type of damage, but it does throw near-infidelity into Homer and Marge's life.

"Dangerous Curves" was crass, cold and seriously lacked laughs. The situations were very forced and the timing was incredibly hurried. All that said, I did find Bart and Lisa as the bickering couple in the pedal car to be very funny. It added a fresh twist to this generally stale outing. And, of course, there were other fun laughs, including Alberto's 45 minutes of silence to complete his "Or should I say 'glide'" statement and Ned Flanders' quip about Homer's "single entendre." But none of that could make up for the poor story being told or the overall unfunniness of the episode. And did the writers of this episode really think that a "Cereal Killer" video game was an original and hilarious idea? That was just lazy, lazy filler.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Once Upon A Day by Lisa Tucker

Stephen Spaulding used to be a doctor and a family man. Now, two years after his wife and young daughter were killed in an automobile accident, Stephen drives a Checker cab through the streets of St. Louis. He doesn't need the money --- he just does it to relive that horrible day and to tell his imaginary, happier version of the story to the people who use his taxi. When he picks up Dorothea O'Brien, though, she recognizes the falseness of his tale and shocks Stephen into moving past the events of that tragic day.

Dorothea herself is on a quest. Raised by her rich, ultraprotective father in a highly secretive estate (called the Sanctuary) in rural New Mexico, Dorothea has not seen the outside world in nineteen years. Dressed in a long skirt and saddle shoes, Dorothea has never seen television or movies, or even many men besides her own eccentric father and her older brother Jimmy. Dorothea has come to St. Louis searching for her brother, who seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth.

After searching through St. Louis's seedier neighborhoods, Stephen and Dorothea discover Jimmy in a mental hospital. The young man has cut himself severely and is now making wild claims about their mother, who (according to their father) died when the children were young. Dorothea doesn't remember her mother at all, but Jimmy's vivid and troubling recollections of her death send the young woman on an odyssey to discover her past.

Lisa Tucker's novel is not exactly a mystery, but her brilliant storytelling skills make for a novel rich in suspense. Flowing freely through time and place, told by a half-dozen different narrators, the novel unfolds gradually, revealing a portrait of a family torn apart and of a relationship based on a skewed understanding of love. As the novel moves from past to present, I see the drastically different ways in which two very different men react to sudden tragedy, and I mourn along with the characters as I come to realize the scope of their losses.

Once Upon A Day does find a measure of hope in the end, but not before raising profound questions about the limits of love, the power of the past, and the capacity of the human heart to deal with profound tragedy.